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Over 70% of CEOs in Saudi Arabia are optimistic about economic growth

A new survey reveals CEOs are better prepared for recession with renewed focus on productivity and digital transformation 

Over 70% of CEOs in Saudi Arabia are optimistic about economic growth
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Despite the difficult economic conditions and challenges experienced by the world, Saudi Arabia achieved 8.7% growth in its gross domestic product, the highest growth rate among the G20 countries in 2022 – a result of its economic and financial reforms, initiatives, and major projects.

This new economic prospect of the country is going down well with companies as CEOs are positive about their growth.

In its latest CEO Outlook by KPMG, entitled ‘Gearing up for growth and governance,’ CEOs worldwide, including the kingdom, said they are positive about long-term growth, even if they face short-term geopolitical and economic challenges.

The survey saw a resurgence in confidence regarding global economic growth over the next three years. The percentage of CEOs expressing optimism was 71%, rebounding from early 2022.

In Saudi Arabia, CEOs exhibit a confidence level of 60% in global growth, while their confidence in the kingdom’s growth prospects stayed high at 74% over the same period. Global growth expectations surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the pandemic.

Dr. Abdullah Al Fozan, Chairman & CEO at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, said, “While it is unsurprising that the economic climate is a top concern for business leaders, they have learned to navigate the unpredictable by realigning their workforces, untangling supply chain disruptions, and adapting to geopolitical and economic impacts over the last three years.”

In the latest survey, he added that pandemic fatigue and economic uncertainty – inflation and rising interest rates – were the two largest concerns for CEOs in Saudi Arabia and around the world. 

While nine out of ten CEOs worldwide believe in the possibility of a recession in 2024, only 20% of those in the kingdom shared that thought. Facing the possibility of a recession, 76% of the CEOs globally said they were actively preparing for it, compared to one-third in Saudi Arabia.

The survey revealed that CEOs are better prepared to face short-term challenges than they were a couple of years ago. Around 60% of CEOs in Saudi Arabia said they were focused on increasing productivity, 28% said they were managing costs, and 46% were rethinking their digital transformation strategies. 

However, the looming threat of recession had slowed down progress on ESG as almost 50% of the CEOs in the kingdom said they were putting their ESG efforts on hold or were reconsidering them over the next half a year. 

“As the possibility of recession looms, many are already prepared with a deep focus on planning and agility. Some see opportunities through this fog of uncertainty brought on by the promise of harnessing better technology, talent, and ESG,” added Al Fozan.

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